Tournaments | Story | 7/17/2017

Ebersoldt sends Gamers to 5-0

Steven Walters        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – Gamers Baseball 15u Blue has certainly been living up to their name, having won five games in the 15u WWBA National Championship, with three of those games being decided by two runs or less. That tough mentality on all sides of the ball has them sitting in the top of their pool with two games left to play.

“I think that they’ve shown me just the mental toughness and grit, and that’s kind of been our theme, that’s the Gamers’ theme for year,” said head coach Nick Aboussie. “Our grit that we’ve instilled in them, that they’re willing to grind out and play a team baseball game, and if we have a little adversity, that we can bounce back to it right away.”

Pitching has been the theme for the Chesterfield, Mo.-based Gamers, who have allowed only 13 runs over the five pool games. They have notched two shutouts and have held other teams to one run or less four times. Although the arms are not the hardest throwing, having only 26 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings, they have shown an ability to pitch, often getting ahead of hitters. What is more impressive is that they are performing with little margin for error, often pitching in close games. Aboussie said that the mindset of getting ahead with the first pitch has been a key to their success on the mound.

“They’re getting themselves into counts to where they’re able to throw a breaking pitch for a strike or throw a fastball off the plate to get somebody to chase, and when that happens, that’s something that’s real cool because that’s us pitching instead of us just throwing trying to hit a gun,” Aboussie said.

Pitching to contact is only effective if a team possesses a defense that can catch the ball, and that is the case for this team, who have been clean in the field all tournament.

“The defense also, that’s helped out tremendously because I think we’ve turned this tournament maybe six or seven double plays, so when you get that type of defensive help that makes our pitching staff look even better, so now it becomes even more of a team game, and that’s what we’re about,” Aboussie said.

Aboussie has methodically used his pitching staff, not using one guy for the whole game, rather using a mix of two or three guys to keep the staff fresh. This method will give them versatility if they make bracket play. He said that using his pitching in that way allows them to stay engaged, knowing that they can enter a ball game instead of having to wait multiple days to pitch again.

Offensively, the bats of the Gamers have grinded out just enough runs to support the pitching staff, and through the first four games have had to do the little things right because of the lack of run scoring. Cade Hohl was a main contributor to what offense they did have, hitting .455 with a double, an RBI and a stolen base through four games.

“He’s a guy that attacks the baseball early, especially in the count as far as fastballs are concerned,” Aboussie said. “That’s our big thing, we want guys hunting fastballs, especially early in the count, to do damage with and that’s one thing that he definitely has done.”

“Hitting the first pitch fastball, that’s what I’ve been looking for, and just driving the ball up the middle,” said Hohl on his approach.

His teammates would follow suit and get going on Monday morning by shifting to the approach that Hohl had been using for his success. The change rewrote the offensive story for the Gamers in this tournament, scoring seven runs against the Zoned RedHawks Elite, the most that they have scored in a game this tournament.

“I think offensively, early in the ball game we decided that we were going to adjust and hit the fastball hard,” Aboussie said. “Up until this point, we had really hit the baseball well. The last three games before this we hadn’t offensively taken control. We decided to really stay sideways, get through right center field gap for our righthanded hitters, oppo hard on the ground, and that kind of changed our approach throughout the course of the early part of that ball game.”

Cameron Macon led off the game with a single up the middle on the second pitch of the game, but was promptly caught stealing after he over slid second base. With two outs in the inning, Ty Stauss tripled to the left-center field gap, with the ball leaving the bat at 86.4 mph. He would be stranded at third, but that would be a sign of an offensive outbreak for the Gamers.

Kyle Miller deposited a 2-0 fastball into left field for a leadoff single in the top of the second inning and was followed up by an Alex Logusch infield single to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Sam Ladd would single home Miller on a line drive to center field, giving the Gamers an early 1-0 lead. Logusch would later score on a wild pitch to add another run to the scoreboard.

“Seeing fastballs early, jumping on fastballs early in the count and then adjusting off-speed, so it worked pretty well today,” Logusch said. “I think we were more aggressive in the count early. Seeing fastballs and hitting it, going the other way a lot more, driving the ball, so it was good.”

More would come from the newfound aggressiveness of the lineup in the fourth inning, sending 11 men to the plate, while pushing four across to score. The inning started with three straight singles by Patrick Clohisy, Miller and Logusch, the latter plating Clohisy on a single. Anthony Lindwedel would be hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score one run, and then Griffin Baur followed him with an RBI single. Macon would walk home a run three batters later to cap off the four-run inning.

They would tack on one more in the seventh, but the previous six were plenty for starter Levi Ebersoldt. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Ebersoldt allowed four hits and a walk over 4 1/3 innings, while giving up no runs. It was the righty’s second appearance of the tournament, throwing four innings of three-hit ball, while fanning two batters against Top Tier Roos 15u National on Friday. He would induce weak contact and keep hitters off balance all morning, garnering four infield popups, while setting down seven hitters on three pitches or less.

“I was feeling pretty good, fastball was a little off [in the bullpen], but when I got on the mound I fixed it and everything worked,” Ebersoldt said. “Just kept my fastball low, got groundballs, changeup got a couple flyballs in key spots, just threw strikes.”

The Gamers look to continue their pitching success, new hitting approach and gritty gameplay into Tuesday when they face the East Coast Sox Select, who are 4-0 in the pool and currently a half game behind the Gamers for the pool lead. The team knows the importance of this game, which can make or break their playoff hopes.

“Again, you’re taking it as it goes. The idea is that they are going to be a talented ball club,” Aboussie said. “We’re excited to get the opportunity to play against another club like that and hopefully we show up, we play hard, we do what we’re capable of like we have the last couple of days and we have some success.”

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